NCAA Visitors Guide: Driving tours around Lexington offer glimpse of horse country

Former Herald-Leader Staff WriterMarch 21, 2013 

Mares grazed peacefully in the fields at the Saxony Farm in Midway. Consider stopping for a bite at the Holly Hill Inn during a scenic drive past nearby horse farms.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

Lexington loves its basketball, but it's also the Horse Capital of the World. Central Kentucky's scenic landscape is further enhanced by its renowned horse farms. Most of them are easily seen during a short car ride. Plan to spend half a day, an entire day or more than one day touring the Bluegrass to see the farms and scenic backdrops.

Note: Versailles Road, a route used on some of these driving tours, is undergoing a major renovation. Expect possible delays on that road.

Thoroughbred Park to Pisgah Pike

(About 35 miles one way)

Begin at Thoroughbred Park, at East Main Street and Midland Avenue (across the street from the Herald-Leader). Take time to stroll through the park to see the bronze horses and historical plaques.

Proceed west on Main Street. On your right, you will see a bronze of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan astride a horse.

Continue west (Main Street becomes Leestown Road). A few miles outside the city, turn left from Leestown Road onto Yarnallton Pike (Ky. 1977). Notice the rock fences along the roadside.

At Old Frankfort Pike, turn right. The picturesque farm on your right is Donamire. Continue down Old Frankfort Pike. This corridor is perhaps one of the best places to view horse farms from the road. Eventually you will see a building up ahead called Wallace Station (3854 Old Frankfort Pike, www.wallacestation.com). Here you can stop for breakfast or lunch, or you can wait to eat until you get to Midway.

If you choose to go to Midway, continue on Old Frankfort to the crossroads at U.S. 62 and turn right. Follow U.S. 62 into Midway. Make the loop right, then left, on each side of the railroad tracks at Main Street. Along these blocks, you'll find plenty of places to eat, some of them among the best restaurants in Central Kentucky.

When you complete the one-way loop around the railroad tracks at Main Street, travel to the renowned Holly Hill Inn (426 North Winter Street, www.hollyhillinn.com), now a restaurant, not an inn. From Main, turn right at U.S. 62, then another right onto Leestown Road (U.S. 421) and right again at the next road, Winter Street. Retrace your path back to U.S. 62, then turn left onto Old Frankfort Pike back toward Lexington.

At Pisgah Pike (Ky. 1967), turn right. Here you will start down one of the most scenic roads in Central Kentucky — a route that should not be missed. Follow Pisgah to Versailles Road (U.S. 60) and turn left, noting Kentucky's famous castle on your left.

Keeneland to the Horse Park

(About 20 miles one way)

Begin at Keeneland Race Course (4201 Versailles Road, Keeneland.com), on any morning to watch horses exercise, 6 to 10 a.m. We suggest about two hours here to include breakfast at the track kitchen (ask anyone on horseback for directions). The horses train until late March on a smaller "training" track in the barn area. After breakfast at Keeneland, ask for driving directions to the back entrance of the racetrack grounds on Rice Road.

Here, at Keeneland's back gate, you will turn right onto Rice Road (Ky. 1969), and then left onto Van Meter Road (also called Ky. 1969). Turn right on Elkchester Road, follow this to Old Frankfort Pike (Ky. 1681), and then turn right.

Follow this road to a four-way intersection at Alexandria Drive. Turn left, following this road to Leestown Road (U.S. 421), where you will turn right, following Leestown to New Circle Road (Ky. 4). Take New Circle northeast to Exit 8 and turn left onto Georgetown Road (U.S. 25). You will notice Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital (2150 Georgetown Road, Roodandriddle.com) on your right on your way out of Lexington. Before Rood & Riddle, take a brief detour off Georgetown Road: Turn right at Citation Boulevard, then left at the first entrance into Coldstream Research Campus.

Inside the campus, take the first left and look in a field on your right for a tall, granite grave marker. It memorializes Bull Dog, 1927-1954, leading sire in 1943 and sire of Calumet Farm's great stallion, Bull Lea, who is memorialized in the Calumet Farm Cemetery with a bronze statue.

Return to Georgetown Road, and turn right. Look for a state historical marker that tells about the great horse Man o' War. Continue along Georgetown Road to Ironworks Pike (Ky. 1973), where you will turn right. After crossing over Interstate 75 you will see, on your right, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute (4250 Iron Works Pike, Hagyard.com).

On your left is the Kentucky Horse Park (4089 Iron Works Parkway, Kyhorsepark.com), home of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the Olympics of riding. You might want to spend the remainder of the day, or at least several hours, at the park, which began its summer season last week. You can eat lunch at the park or in nearby Georgetown.

Paris Pike corridor

(About 15 miles one way)

This is another scenic route not to miss. Most people rave about the construction project that converted the road from two lanes to four while retaining all the traditional themes of rock fences, trees, iron gates and horse farms. Drive to the outskirts of Paris and turn back to Lexington. Or, explore Paris, where there are several horse farms nearby.

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